Cheesy Leftover Chicken Pot Pie

I bought a rotisserie chicken the other day and after dinner, I picked the remaining meat from the bones. Later in the week, once I got home from a busy day of being out and about, I further cut down on prep time by using a seasoning blend and a refrigerated pie crust to have a delicious pot pie on the table in about 90 minutes.

I’m not a pea or carrot fan, so I instead I used fresh broccoli. The broccoli goes well with the cheesy sauce and the cheddar adds enough saltiness that the rest of the dish needs no added salt.

I made two small pies instead of one large and froze the second before baking. When I’m ready to eat that one, all I will need to do is put it in the oven from frozen and add about 15 minutes to the bake time.

The pot pie is very filling and full of comforting flavors. It was so good, I ate the entire half!

Cheesy Leftover Chicken Pot Pie

2 pie crusts (I used 1 package of Pillsbury Refrigerated Pie Crusts)
4 tablespoons butter
2 cups seasoning blend (PictSweet) or dice 1 medium onion, 2 stalks of celery and 1 bell pepper
4 tablespoons flour
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup milk
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
1 large head broccoli, broken into individual florets
2 cups cooked chicken, shredded

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Melt the butter in a saucepan. Sauté the veggies until soft, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle the flour into the pan and continue to cook for 5 minutes more. Whisk in the chicken broth to loosen the flour and remove any lumps. Slowly add the milk and whisk until well combined and the sauce has thickened and just reaching a simmer, around five minutes. Drop in cheese by the handful and stir until melted. Stir in broccoli and chicken. Remove pan from heat.

Place one pie crust in the bottom of a pie pan. Pour in the filling. Place top crust on and pinch and roll the edges together. Cut 4 two inch slices in the top for steam to escape. Place on a rimmed baking sheet to contain any drips

Cook for 45 minutes, rotating pan midway through cooking. Let stand for 15-30 minutes before slicing and eating.

Apple Hand Pies for Pi Day

This year for Pi Day I decided to go for apple pie. But not just one – no, I wanted lots of pie so I went for individual ones using my handy, dandy empanada maker to cut and mold them.

I’ve made Apple Jacks before I didn’t want fried pies this time so I went with baking them instead. With a sprinkling of cinnamon sugar on the top, these are perfect little snacks and are crispy not heavy.

Flakey and overflowing with apple goodness, these allow me to have my pie and eat it anywhere. I ate several hot out of the oven, still more after they cooled and some cold out of the fridge.

Apple Hand Pies

1 recipe of sourdough pie crusts or a package of Pillsbury Refrigerated Pie Crusts

1 (6 ounce) packages dried, sliced Granny Smith apples
2 cups water
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon apple pie spice
¼ teaspoon salt

Cover dried apple slices with water and cook on top of the stove over medium heat for about 15 to 20 minutes until water is almost all absorbed by the apples. Add the sugars, butter and spices. Continue cooking another fifteen minutes. Mash the apples until they look like pie filling. Remove and set aside to cool.

Turn out the dough rounds onto a floured surface and roll to about 1/4 inch thick. Cut dough into circles about 5 inches across. Chill dough until filling is room temperature. Fill each circle with about 2 tablespoons of the apple filling. Moisten the edges of the circle with some water on your fingers. Fold over and crimp the edges of the pies together. Place on parchment covered baking sheets.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

While the oven is preheating, freeze the pies (at least 10 minutes) or put in the fridge (at least 30 minutes) before baking. The colder the pies are going into the oven, the better they’ll hold their shape.

Scramble an egg with 1 tablespoon of water. Brush the top of each pie with egg wash and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Cut a slit in the top for venting.

Bake for about 30 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking. They’re done when the pies are golden brown on top and around the edges. Remove from the oven and allow them to cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool until ready to handle.

Serve warm or at room temperature or even cold out of the refrigerator. Baked pies can be frozen. Allow to thaw in the fridge before serving.

Hearty Tortilla Soup

We had a quite a temperature drop overnight and it was cold enough for me to want to make soup. It had to come out of pantry, though, as I wasn’t going anywhere.

My girlfriend had canned tomatoes a couple of years ago and so I used a quart of farmed fresh tomatoes that were put away at the peak of ripeness. If you aren’t so lucky as to have such a handy, crafty gal in your life, use a 32 ounce can of tomatoes. I tossed them in a food processor with a can of Ro-tel to add a little heat and pulsed it a couple of times to make for a smoother soup. Out of the freezer, I got out diced, frozen onion (let the folks at PictSweet Farms do the peeling, chopping and crying) and cubes of frozen garlic and cilantro (I love the Dorot pre-portioned herbs) plus a pint bag of frozen corn. I also opened a can of black beans and hammered away at the bag of tortilla chips until they were well crushed. Also out of the pantry, came a container of chicken stock. Badaboom – after a bit simmering, I had a hearty soup.

I like this soup as it is or you can add 2 cups of cooked chicken after it comes to a simmer. The flavors are complex but very comforting. Exactly what this chilly day called for!

Tortilla Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large white onion, diced (1 generous cup of frozen diced onion)
4 garlic cloves, minced (4 cubes of Dorot garlic)
1 teaspoon ground cumin 
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro (4 of the frozen Dorot cilantro cubes)
1 quart (32 oz) canned tomatoes
1 can (10 oz) Ro-tel diced tomatoes and green chilies
2 cups frozen corn
1 can (15 oz) black beans, drained
2 cups crushed tortilla chips, plus more to serve
1 quart chicken broth
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, warm the oil before adding the onion and sauté, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant. Add in the cumin and cilantro. Cook a minute or two to bloom the spices, stirring constantly. Stir in the pureed tomatoes and Ro-tel, corn, black beans, tortilla chips, chicken broth and the salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat to medium low and simmer about 30 minutes. Stir and cook for 30 minutes more, uncovered. Soup will have thickened from the corn tortilla chips.

Taste and season with salt and pepper, if necessary. Remember, you’re serving it with more tortilla chips so go easy on the salt. To serve, either use tortilla chips as a spoon or ladle the soup over a pile of chips in the bowl.

One Pot Jambalaya

I made some Tasso ham the other day and set aside a cup of the cubes for this recipe. I also cheated and used a seasoning blend so I didn’t have to chop the onion, celery and bell pepper. I just used two generous cups of the frozen veggies to speed things up. And if you already have a favorite Cajun/Creole Seasoning, use a tablespoon of it to season the chicken. Here is my recipe for a batch to keep on hand.

Everything, including the rice is cooked in the jambalaya making this the perfect one pot meal. Because the Cajuns who developed this meal were a thrifty bunch, this meal stretches with your budget – have shrimp? Toss a handful or two in at the end when returning the chicken to the pot. Only have squirrel or rabbit? Use it in place of the chicken. Vegetarian? Leave out the meats altogether, swap vegetable stock for chicken stock and add red beans to cook with the rice. My version has chicken, ham and sausage so 2 chicken breasts, 1 cup of diced ham and 1 link of sausage add plenty of protein to serve four people while not breaking the bank.

This is a pretty quick recipe and in about an hour you’ll be eating a deliciously, hearty dish that has so many layers of flavors. Fix your plate and we’ll have big fun on the bayou!

One Pot Jambalaya

1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1” pieces
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided use
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium green bell pepper, seeded and diced
2 ribs celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup diced Tasso Ham
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1 cup long-grain rice
3 bay leaves
3 cups chicken stock
1 link andouille sausage, cut into ¼ inch coins

In a small bowl, stir together paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, thyme, basil, cayenne and salt and pepper. Or, a tablespoon of already prepared Creole/Cajun seasoning. Place the chicken into a medium bowl and toss in the spice mixture until completely coated with the seasoning.

In a large, Dutch oven, heat half of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken and any extra seasoning from the tossing and sauté until just cooked through, about 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the rest of the olive oil to the same pot, along with the onion, bell pepper, and celery; sauté about 3 minutes. Stir in garlic and sauté until fragrant. Add tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce and rice, stirring to coat well. Cook about 2 minutes or until every grain of rice is glistening. Add bay leaves, Tasso ham and chicken stock. Stir well to combine. Bring mixture to a boil then turn the temperature down to just hold a simmer. Cover.

Cook until rice is just tender, about 15-20 minutes. Stir in chicken and andouille sausage. Cook about 10 minutes more with the lid off. Taste for seasoning, adding salt and/or pepper, if needed. Serve.


Tasso Ham Steaks

My sister and her husband came to my place for a weekend of Mardi Gras Carnival parades. When they do this, they usually bring a cooler full of beer and another full of food like two dozen eggs, pork chops, ribeye steaks, plus pounds of cheese, mushrooms, bacon and sausage. Her husband normally makes a big breakfast to fuel everyone for the day and I cook the afternoon/evening meal (as my toleration for crowds is so low I end up leaving early or skipping entirely many parades). This year, we got so busy we didn’t use the ham steaks, so I happily turned them into Tasso ham.

By using ham steaks, I eliminated the need to cure a pork shoulder for three days. Instead, I used the seasoning to coat the already cured ham steaks overnight before smoking low and slow. The result makes a tasty addition to soups, stews and gumbos.

Highly flavorful and I can’t wait to make jambalaya this weekend! To make it easier to add, I store the ham in ziptop bags in one cup amounts in the freezer.

Tasso Ham Steaks

2 – 1/2 inch thick slices of ham steak (about 1.5 lbs each)
2 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste

Mix the seasoning together well. Rub the seasoning into the sliced meat. Place the steaks on a plate and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight.

Remove the seasoned ham steaks from the fridge, unwrap them and place on a wire rack. Leave to dry on the counter for at least an hour before preparing the smoker. Set the smoker for a low and slow heat – instead of the usual 200 degree, go lower to 175 degrees. I achieve this in my Weber grill by only filling half the chimney starter and placing the lit charcoal over a horseshoe shaped single layer of unlit briquettes. I used hickory chunks for the smoke.

Place the steaks on the other side of the grill from the coals and smoke for 2 hours or until the internal temperature of the steaks reaches 150 degrees F. Cool completely and cut into cubes. Store in airtight bags in the freezer until ready to use.

I used one cup of Tasso ham in making my one pot jambalaya – see recipe here.

Lemon Cream Cheese Sourdough Kolaches

Czech immigrants to Louisiana brought to our shores recipes for filled buns called kolaches. These can be filled with sweet or savory fillings – I’ve had sausage and cheese kolaches in Lafayette and creole cream cheese ones in Metairie. As there are people stoping by on the way to parades on Fat Tuesday, I made mine with a lemon cream cheese filling.

Because I am using my sourdough starter, I started by making the sponge the morning before on Lundi Gras and then let the dough proof overnight before the shaping of the buns and baking in the morning of Mardi Gras.

I divided my cream cheese into two batches, colored them with yellow and blue food coloring and put them in the bun wells in a stripe, symbolizing the Ukrainian national flag. We may be a world apart but I liked the idea of honoring their fight against the Russian invaders. Slava Ukraini! Heroiam slava! (“Glory to Ukraine! Glory to the heroes!”)

Tasty with a deliciously tangy bite from the lemon juice. These take a bit of time but were a cool way to use my sourdough starter.

Lemon Cream Cheese Sourdough Kolaches

Take 1 cup from your sourdough starter and feed it with 1 cup of flour and ½ cup of warm water. Mix well and set aside on the counter for eight hours.

3 tablespoons granulated sugar
4 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon Kosher salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup milk
2 egg yolks (reserve the whites)
½ cup of the sourdough sponge
1 ½ cups of filling

Whisk together the dry ingredients (sugar, 3 cups of flour and salt) in a large bowl. Mash the softened butter into the dry ingredients with a fork.

Warm the milk in the microwave for 10 to 15 seconds. It should be warm, not hot. Whisk the egg yolks into the warm milk along with the sourdough starter. Stir until well combined.

Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until no dry pockets remain. Allow the mixture to rest for an hour.

Use the final cup of flour to dust the work surface and your hands. Turn out the dough and form into a ball and knead until smooth, about 10 minutes. Butter a bowl and place the dough inside to proof for eight hours.

Divide the dough into quarters and divide each quarter into three pieces. Roll gently between your hands to form balls. Place on a baking sheets and don’t crowd the pan as they will be doubling in size. Cover with plastic wrap. Let rise for 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

To fill the kolaches, take your fingers and press an indentation in the center of each risen ball of dough. You are looking to create a deep hollow surrounded by puffy sides of dough. Place about a tablespoon of filling into each depression.

Beat the egg whites and brush them over the exposed dough. Bake for 20 minutes, until the dough is a light golden brown.

Eat them warm from the oven, or let them cool and store them in an airtight container.

Here is the filling recipe that I used. You can also use jam, if you don’t want to make your own.

Lemon Cream Cheese Filling

8 ounces cream cheese left at room temperature for at least 30 minutes
1 large egg separated (reserve egg white to use as egg wash)
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
Dash salt

Place the cream cheese, egg yolk, sugar, vanilla, lemon juice and zest and salt in a medium bowl and beat together with an electric mixer until smooth. Cover and place in the fridge. Pull out to soften slightly ahead of the end of the final proof.

Cheesy Sourdough Sausage Balls

I’ve been working on replacing my old Bisquick recipe of sausage balls. Not that I haven’t used the mix for pancakes, dumplings, etc but the sugar and all the other things in it are not what I want in my baking any more. The experiments were delicious and also gave me another way to use my sourdough starter (it is about to celebrate its 3rd birthday).

I like sharp cheddar cheese in these but any good melting cheese would work. You could also add a ½ cup of chopped olives for a briny kick.

Such a tasty appetizer – meaty and cheesy with just a little tang.

Cheesy Sourdough Sausage Balls

1/2 cup sourdough starter discard
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup warm water
1 pound pork breakfast sausage
1 pound (about 4 cups) sharp cheddar cheese, grated
4 tablespoons butter, melted

Splash of milk (if needed)

Mix together the sourdough starter, flour and warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer. Set aside for at least 15 minutes to allow the flour to hydrate.

Brown the sausage, using a fork to chop it up in small pieces as it heats. Drain on a paper towel and set aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 400° F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

In the bowl of the stand mixer, combine sausage with the flour mixture. Stir well before adding cheese and melted butter. Mix until everything is thoroughly combined and comes together like a “dough.” If the dough needs a bit of additional moisture to come together, add a splash of milk.

Form into small balls (about a tablespoon in size) and place on the parchment lined baking sheet.

Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.

The balls can be made ahead, cooled and frozen until ready to use. Just thaw and reheat.

Sourdough Pastry Dough to Make Artichoke Bacon Hand Pies

I tuned into Kitchen Queens New Orleans and watched the owner of Gracious Bakery make her Artichoke Bacon Hand Pies. I knew I had most of the ingredients in my pantry/fridge and decided that it would be a good opportunity to try making pastry using my sourdough starter.

I took a basic pate brisee crust recipe and reduced the flour and water by the weight of the sourdough starter. If using 1 cup starter (8 oz or 227g), it means reducing the flour by a scant cup (4 oz or 113 g) and the water by ½ cup (4 oz or 113g). Easy peasy and using the food processor to cut in the butter makes it even more so.

You could certainly make the hand pies with a regular pastry crust (home-made or store bought) but I’m always chuffed to find something else my sourdough starter can do.

The crust turned out to be perfectly flaky. It is strong enough to stand up to a fully loaded hand pie and would be perfect for a base for a fruit pie or other savory/sweet delicious treat.

Sourdough Pastry Dough

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup unsalted butter, cut into slices and frozen
1 cup sourdough starter discard, chilled

In a food processor, pulse together the flour and salt. Place in the butter and pulse to cut it into the flour until coarse, pea-sized crumbs appear. Place the sourdough starter into the processor and pulse just until combined.

Dump the dough in a large bowl and bring it together with your hands. If it is very crumbly, add some ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time (2 tablespoons maximum). Push the dough together into a rough ball. Flatten into a disc, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate about 1 hour or up to overnight. The dough can even be frozen at this stage. Make sure it is wrapped well and defrost in the fridge overnight before using.

Remove dough from the refrigerator and let rest for a few minutes at room temperature so it will be soft enough to roll out. Lightly dust workspace surface with flour. Use even pressure to roll the dough out front to back. Give the dough a quarter turn to roll the pastry out into a circle with a thickness of approximately ¼-inch. Cut into individual pies with a larger cutter – traditionally over in Natchitoches, they used an old coffee can as a cutter. I’ve got a handy dandy set of empanada molds that Michelle gave me. You cut with one side and use the other to fill and seal.

You will want to make the filling while the dough chills so it can be cooling in the fridge before making the pies. To keep the pastry flaky, you do not want the butter in the dough to melt too early.

I recommend rinsing the canned artichokes to reduce the citric acid taste.

I substituted a sweet vidalia onion for the green onions and altered the cheeses a bit from the original recipe. I like the flavor of the mix of Parmesan, Romano, and Asiago cheese versus just plain Parmesan and a sharp cheddar is definitely a nice touch.

Artichoke Bacon Sourdough Hand Pies

1 medium onion, diced
6 slices cooked bacon, chopped
2 14-oz cans artichoke hearts, rinsed, drained and chopped
80 grams cream cheese (⅓ of the package)
100 grams shaved Parmesan, Romano, and Asiago cheese
100 grams sharp white cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pinch of cayenne pepper

In a large pot, sauté the diced onion until golden. Add in the chopped bacon and cook until crisp. Stir in the chopped artichoke hearts. Cook until heated through, then add the cream cheese in chunks. Stir until the cream cheese is melted and combined. Turn off the heat and add the Parmesan, Romano, and Asiago cheese, white cheddar cheese, salt and cayenne. Transfer the filling to a bowl and refrigerate for an hour.

Place a generous amount of filling in the center of each pastry round and fold the dough over the filling, pressing the edges to close. Crimp to seal the edges with a fork or the empanada mold. Refrigerate for an hour or until ready to eat. At this stage, you could also freeze the pies – wrap in plastic wrap and put in a zip top bag.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine 1 egg, 2 tablespoons of water and a pinch of salt to make an egg wash. Brush the tops of the formed hand pies with egg wash. Bake in a preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown.

The savory filling from Megan Forman is delicious with all the flavors from the bacon, artichokes and cheese.

Vanilla Cookies with Chocolate

Some lovely friends of mine gave me a bottle of homemade vanilla for the holidays and it smells so good I want to use it as perfume. I restrained myself and just made cookies that highlight the wonderful vanilla flavor.

These are super basic vanilla cookies into which I chopped some bittersweet chocolate very fine because, why not? Use a baking bar as it will shave a little as you chop so that there are small bits of chocolate distributed throughout.

Crispy outside but still chewy and just enough chocolate to satisfy. The vanilla flavor comes through to make one delicious cookie.

Vanilla Cookies with Grated Chocolate

1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 oz bittersweet chocolate baking bar, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine dry ingredients.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Add flour mixture to creamed mixture and mix well. Stir in chocolate just until combined.

Roll tablespoonfuls into balls and place 2 inches apart onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Remove to wire racks to cool.

Garlic and Ginger Green Beans

As regular readers to this blog are aware, I’m not the biggest fan of veggies, especially green beans. I’ve had far too many boiled to death. However, even I like these. They are quickly parboiled and then stir fried so they keep their structural integrity. Once you add in the spicy garlic and ginger sauce and they become finger licking good (mainly because I’m a barbarian and didn’t use a fork to eat them).

This is a super quick preparation, so have everything set out and close to hand and the rest of the meal ready to go.

Very intense flavor and so good and crunchy.

Garlic and Ginger Green Beans

1 pound green beans, trimmed 
Salt to taste
1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine or dry sherry 
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced ginger
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (more if you like more heat)
1 tablespoon peanut oil or canola oil

Bring a pot of water to a boil, season with salt and add the green beans. Boil 1 minute, drain and rinse with cold water, then place on a kitchen towel to dry thoroughly. Wet vegetables added to the hot pan will splutter and braise instead of stir-frying. Combine the soy sauce and wine or sherry in a small bowl or measuring cup. Place the garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes in another small container and stir to combine. Make sure all these additions are in easy reach before you start stir frying.

Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok or a 12-inch skillet over high heat until a drop of water evaporates within a second or two when added to the pan. Add in the oil by pouring it to the sides of the pan and swirling the pan. Add the garlic and ginger, stir-frying for no more than 10 seconds, and then add the green beans. Toss together until the beans are well coated, then add the soy sauce and sherry/rice wine and stir-fry for one to two minutes, until the beans are crisp-tender. Remove from the heat and serve.